Dre Campbell Farm
Rabbit Farming (Cuniculture): Raising Rabbits for Meat

Rabbit Farming (Cuniculture): Raising Rabbits for Meat

If you’re interested in the idea of rabbit farming or cuniculture, then we’re here to help you out.

For many people, rabbits are small, quiet, docile pets they give to their children in order to teach them responsibility.

However, for many others, rabbits are an invaluable food source that’s relatively easy to raise and breed.

It’s also sustainable enough that once a method is set in place, it’s not likely to fail. But first, you need to know what you’re doing.

Advantages of Rabbit Farming (Cuniculture)

Rabbits are very low maintenance. They don’t need a ton of space to be happy, they’re very quiet and won’t make a lot of noise, and they can be surprisingly charming.

Even if you get into the process of cuniculture with the intention of gaining a self-sustaining food source, you might be surprised at how attached you become to some bunnies.

Some farmers even enter their rabbits into contests. They’re a great first-time pet for children because of their easy care and lack of need for constant attention.

Females produce fairly large litters at a time and can breed a few times a year.

They also grow extremely quickly at little cost and their meat is very tasty and nutritious without any religious taboos attached to it. And along with the meat, you can also use their manure for excellent fertilizer.

Honestly, if you can handle the idea of raising them for meat, they’re a very inexpensive investment to get started.

What Breeds To Choose?

You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing what breeds to focus on for your rabbit farming venture. There are a ton of different options.

  • Continental giant
  • Dark Grays
  • Netherland dwarf
  • Fox
  • Lionhead rabbit
  • Dutch
  • Mini rex
  • New Zealand’s (both white and black varieties)
  • New Zealand Red
  • Californian
  • Belgium white
  • Flemish giant
  • English lop
  • Chinchilla
  • Holland lop
  • Beveren
  • American fuzzy
  • And many, many more.

These are all popular breeds for their productivity and relative ease in raising.

The only problem you’re likely to run into once you’ve made your decision is where to find that particular breed.

Some are easier to find in certain regions than others, so if you’re dead set on a certain breed, be prepared to spend a little extra money getting them here.

Farming Rabbits

You have a couple of methods available to you when it comes to rabbit farming.

There is the Deep Litter Method, which is best suited for smaller populations of rabbits. It requires a concrete floor and a 4-5 inch deep litter husk lined with straw, hay, or wood shavings.

This method will produce and support up to 30 rabbits comfortably, with the two sexes being separated from one another.

Keep in mind though that with the deep litter method, you have a higher chance of disease spreading through the family.

The second method is the Cage Method, which, just as it sounds, keeps the rabbits in cages versus the free-roaming hutch, and the rabbits are contained separately.

This is optimal for raising larger numbers of rabbits and is often used commercially.

1. Feeding

Rabbit farming is inexpensive when it comes to feeding. The type of food will have to vary depending on their age and breed.

Adult rabbits require 17-18% crude protein in their diet, 14% fiber, 7% minerals and a whopping 2700 calories of metabolic energy.

This can all be found in green, leafy veggies such as spinach, kale, carrot (duh), muller, parsnip, cucumber, green grass (excellent excuse to let them run around and play outside) and vegetable waste.

Make sure they have a generous and clean source of freshwater and you’ll be good to go. They’re not only inexpensive to acquire and keep, but they’re easy to feed as well.

2. Breeding

Time to let bunnies do what bunnies do best — make more bunnies.

At around 5-6 months, rabbits become mature enough for reproduction. However, it isn’t recommended to put them together until the males at least have reached one year old to ensure quality stock.

This may go without saying, but if you have a sick rabbit, don’t breed them. Extra special care must be taken to the rabbits intended for breeding and once pregnant, a female rabbit will gestate for anywhere from 28-31 days.

The females, called does, will deliver anywhere from 2-8 kids at a time.

3. The Best Rabbits for Meat

So you’ve decided to breed rabbits for meat. What breeds are you going to get? If you’re into it strictly for meat, then you have several options to choose from.

You’ll want a breed that is on the larger side and produces lean, muscular meat and gives birth to larger litters.

With this in mind, the New Zealands, Californians, and Champagne d’Argents are your preferred choices, particularly if you’re just getting started.

They’re very muscular rabbits and will be ready to butcher at about eight weeks old.

Many doctors recommend rabbit meat over others due to its lean nature, making it good for people with heart conditions.

It has a similar texture and taste to chicken, so it’s relatively easy to prepare as well.

4. Killing Methods

This is the big one, the one every first-timer probably dreads.

If you’ve ever had rabbit meat, how did it taste? Was it sweet and tender, sort of like chicken?

Well, if it was, then you can rest easy. That rabbit was killed peacefully and humanely, without its instinctive fear response stiffening up its muscles with adrenaline beforehand.

There are three potential ways of killing rabbits, but we generally recommend the first one:

The Broomstick:

Make sure the rabbit is placed on the ground in front of its favorite treat to distract it and make it happy. Next, place a broomstick handle across its neck.

Next, as you step on the other side of the handle to hold it in place, simultaneously grab the hind legs of the rabbit and essentially stand up straight as you’re pulling upwards at a ninety-degree angle.

This will create a sort of stretching, give sensation as you feel the bones of the neck detach.

The rabbit will enter its death throes, but don’t misunderstand; this only means that the brain has been instantly cut off from the body, preventing all essential functions.

This is our favorite method because the rabbit will only feel maybe a half-second of it if anything. It won’t have time to even feel afraid.

The Arterial Bleed:

This one isn’t highly recommended on the basis that it doesn’t always kill immediately.

Still, if you do it right, the rabbit shouldn’t feel anything more than a sudden, heavy drowsy sensation before essentially going to sleep.

As before, place it in front of a treat to distract it. Slice quickly through the jugular veins.

Within a minute, the rabbit will be dead and ready for hanging and draining.

Fatal Blow:

This one is only recommended for those who know precisely what they’re doing. It’s humane, like the other three, but it has to be done so carefully and correctly so as not to cause the animal any suffering.

Hold the rabbit by its hind feet so the ears form a perfect V shape. Strike sharply and fast directly behind the V shape on the back of the head.

If done correctly, this should have the same effect as the broomstick method.

Whatever your killing method, you can take comfort in the fact that these rabbits die far more humanely than in the wild. There they’re often still alive and terrified as they’re torn apart by predators.

Also, whatever method you choose, ensure that the blood is properly drained out before it is eaten.

Utilizing Rabbit Manure

This stuff is a great organic fertilizer — highly rich in nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium — the essential building blocks of any successful garden.

Rabbit manure is also a dry and odorless substance, so it’s easy to collect and distribute without a huge mess.

The pellets will collect together in the bottom of the hutch, so gathering them is a breeze. Plus, you’ll get a ton of them. Rabbits are great little poopers.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, with the great demand for commercial meat, raising rabbits is an increasingly promising opportunity.

Aside from the relative ease in caring for them, their meat is extremely nutritious and quite tasty.

If you’re looking to start your own business, cuniculture or rabbit farming might be the ticket for you.

Image via commons.wikimedia

Sasha Brown

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